Walker, Breed use consolation bracket to earn trip to Houston

Chase Walker and Rhett Breed weren’t going to let a little adversity get in the way of qualifying for the NCAA Division II National Championships.

The Mesa State College wrestlers had to battle back through the consolation bracket after quarterfinal losses Saturday in the West Regional in Kearney, Neb.

Both of them took third place in the tournament to qualify for the national tournament
March 13-14 in Houston. The Mavericks placed seventh in the RMAC/West Regional with 54.5 points.

“It’s huge,” Mesa State coach Chuck Pipher said. “It’s another step in the right direction. You’re always greedy and want more.

“Coaches and even spectators say you’re really wrestling hard. You’re getting there. They’re saying you’re doing a good job. Every year, you’re getting better.”

Walker, who is ranked third in the nation at 157-pounds, was unexpectedly pinned in the quarterfinals by an unseeded wrestler.

“Chase got caught in a defensive pin,” Pipher said. “He was flatter than a board. He never wavered.

“When Chase got beat I knew he was mad. He walked off the mat, but right away got his composure back. He forgot about it. He wasn’t devastated. He didn’t lose his cool.”

Instead, Walker (29-5) took out his frustration on his next two opponents to reach the consolation semifinals.

There, the junior from Morgan, Utah, ran into returning All-American and fourth seed Keenan McCurdy of Nebraska-Kearney.

The wrestlers went into double overtime, before Walker won 8-3.

“He had a heck of a match there,” Pipher said. “That shows his experience. Any six in that weight class could’ve went (to nationals).”

That victory pushed Walker, a junior college national champion, into the third-place match, where he defeated Nick Sanchez of New Mexico Highlands 9-3 to qualify for nationals.

Breed (17-9) wasn’t feeling well at weigh-ins and barely made weight.

“Rhett didn’t wrestle well in the first two rounds,” Pipher said. “He had a tough time making weight. Once he got his barring back, he was pretty good.”

But the stage was too large for Breed to give up.

“Two weeks off (of wrestling) was rough making weight,” Breed said. “I wasn’t feeling good. The second match I was feeling even worse. Coach Pipher said, ‘You’re at regionals. Let’s get excited about it.’ That definitely helped.”

The 133-pound freshman from Durango bounced back from a quarterfinal loss to the fifth seed to win two matches to reach the third-place match.

Breed, though, needed to defeat second seed Joey Morrison of Kearney to advance to nationals. Morrison defeated Breed 12-2 earlier this season in a dual.

Mesa junior Cole Johnson battled with a sore hamstring to place fifth at 165 pounds, but didn’t get a wrestleback.

Freshman heavyweight Trevor Stapp placed sixth in his first tournament since dislocating his elbow one month ago.


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